News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized form.

1. Pill to cure Type 2 diabetes

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego have developed a single pill that aims to restore insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients. This is different from current drugs, which filter excess glucose in the blood as a result of the dysfunction.

The drug works by inhibiting an enzyme called low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase (LMPTP), which is suspected to contribute to the reduction in cell sensitivity to insulin. With the reduced LMPTP, the drug triggers insulin receptors on the surface of cells - especially those in the liver - which in turn restores the cells ability to regulate excess sugar.

The body can then regulate blood sugar levels, the condition of Type 2 diabetes is effectively reversed. The drug has only been tested out on mice, which was successful, without any adverse side effects.

The team is now continuing testing for drug safety before human clinical trials are carried out. They are confident that the drug "could lead to a new therapeutic strategy for treating type 2 diabetes."

2. Portable artificial lung could be reality soon

The mechanical lung would function outside the patient's body. Photo credit: William Federspiel
The mechanical lung would function outside the patient's body. Photo credit: William Federspiel

Bioengineering researcher and professor at University of Pittsburgh, William Federspiel has attempted on designing an artificial lung for the past 20 years.

Federspiel and his research team are getting closer with their device called the Haemolung Respiratory Assist System (RAS) that performs "respiratory dialysis", removing carbon dioxide from a patient's blood. The device is connected to the patient's vena cava through a cannula or tube before it is inserted into the jugular vein in the throat.

A portable oxygen tank will still be needed. This would allow the patient to be more mobile, preventing muscle deterioration. It will undergo testing in US clinical trials late this year or early 2018 and has already been approved for use in Europe, Canada and Australia.

The team is looking to creating a smaller device that is designed to raise oxygen levels in blood - which they have applied for a patent.

3. Wireless camera system instead of skin sensors to monitor preemies

Swiss researchers have developed a wireless camera system to monitor vital signs in premature babies, to replace uncomfortable and highly inaccurate skin sensors which generate false alarms in up to 90% of cases due to the baby's movement.

This makes it uncomfortable for the babies and adds extra stress for nurses due to the constant checking, affecting the quality of care. The University Hospital Zurich's neonatal clinic is preparing to begin tests of a new, contactless system created by a collaborated effort from the EPFL Polytechnic University in Lausanne and the Swiss centre for Electronics and Microtechnology.

The system comprises highly sensitive cameras that can detect the newborn's pulse through its skin colour, which changes every time the heart beats. Initial studies on adults have been done and algorithms have been created. The schools hope to replace skin sensors altogether with this system.

4. A vaccine for acne

A cure for acne might be possible if trials of a new vaccine developed by scientists at the University of California, San Diego are successful.

The project's lead research, Eric C. Huang, said "Acne is cause, in part, by P.acnes bacteria that are with you your whole life - and we couldn't create a vaccine for the bacteria because, in some ways, P acnes are good for you."

But the researchers found an antibody that combats a toxic protein associated with inflammation that leads to acne, which P. acnes bacteria secretes on the skin. The vaccine blocks off the acne-causing effects of the bacteria without killing the bacteria themselves.

The vaccine has been tested on skin biopsies and early results have been promising. The team hopes to move on to trialling the vaccines on patients.

5. A possible cure for HIV

Here, cells protected from rhinovirus by membrane-tethered, receptor-blocking antibodies survive well and form colonies. Photo credit: Jia Xie, Lerner Lab
Here, cells protected from rhinovirus by membrane-tethered, receptor-blocking antibodies survive well and form colonies. Photo credit: Jia Xie, Lerner Lab

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed a method to bind HIV-fighting antibodies to immune cells, creating a cell population resistant to the virus.

The cells have only been tested out in lab conditions, which showed that the resistant cells can quickly replace diseased cells, potentially curing the disease in a person with HIV. Compared to previous techniques where many antibodies float throughout the bloodstream, the new technique ensures that antibodies hang onto a cell's surface, blocking HIV from accessing a crucial cell receptor and spreading infection.

"This protection would be long term," said Jia Xie, senior staff scientist at TSRI and first author of the study. The team hopes to next engineer antibodies to protect a different receptor on the cell surface. MIMS

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